Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Biblical View Of Covenant

“In the Bible, what we call ‘covenant’ is not a symmetrical relationship between two partners who make a contractual agreement involving reciprocal obligations and penalties: this idea of a partnership among equals cannot be reconciled with the biblical concept of God. According to the latter, man is in no position to create a relationship with God, let alone give him anything and receive something in return; it is quite out of the question that man should bind God to obligations in return for undertakings on his own part. If there is to be a relationship between God and man, it can only come about through God’s free ordinance, in which his sovereignty remains intact. The relationship is therefore completely asymmetrical, because God, for the creature, is and remains the ‘wholly other.’ The ‘covenant’ is not a two-sided contract but a gift, a creative act of God’s love. This last statement, it is true, goes beyond the philological issue. Although the covenant is patterned on Hittite and Assyrian contracts between states, in which the lord imposes his law on his vassal, God’s covenant with Israel is far more: here God, the King, receives nothing from man; but in giving him his law, he gives him the path of life.”

-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions—One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World

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